In the midst of fierce debate within the Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that a shadow cabinet reshuffle is imminent. Longstanding Labour stalwarts are set to become stripped of their coveted titles, and damaging presidential politics will become the norm.
Of course, this is a new – and once again ‘new’ – age for Labour. A November poll showed that approximately 66% of those able to vote in the September leadership election believed Jeremy Corbyn is leading “well.” 86% believed Corbyn is doing a good job, and nearly half of all who voted for Andy Burnham to become leader agreed. This advent of contentment must be celebrated, highlighting the still grassroots element of the Party. In addition, policies such as nuclear disarmament and foreign policy have been moved closer to the top of the Party agenda. Labour’s core values as social-democrats have become reinstated, a mindset which is reflective of Party members’ views.
But progression and success can only come in positively criticising the Tory government, and momentarily, Labour MPs are instead criticising themselves. The comments of Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair are indeed understandable, but have highlighted the damaging divide between existing and new Blairites and Corbyn supporters. A disunited party is unable to scrutinise its opposition and make effective changes to British lives, and this is having a stark effect on the strength of Labour.
The emerging political crevasse is demobilising Labour and impinging on possibilities of a successful future, including 2020 election gains. An imminent cabinet reshuffle will surely fail to fill the cavity in Labour’s enamel which once sparkled. Corbyn’s principle of ‘new politics’ has been abandoned. Willfully enlarging the already sweeping divide amongst Labour MPs largely goes against the principles of dialogue and compromise upon which his politics is said to be based. How can Corbyn justify punishment for voting freely over Syria, in a supposedly free vote? An effective Labour party must endorse discussion, and take into account the ideas of all members.
By staging a Cabinet reshuffle after just one huge party defeat, Corbyn is mindlessly creating a deficit of able frontbench politicians. Demoting the likes of Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle is a mistake. This is not only demoting key political brains, but also supporters of some true left-wing policy for which Corbyn’s party should be striving. Disagreement is needed for effective policy synthesis, and a move to more presidential and autocratic politics harks back to earlier, contentious Labour periods. Tony Blair’s leadership methods largely ignored the views of many backbench Labour politicians. The party simply cannot move back to those days of internal dictatorship and division.
Whilst I am an advocate of the socially democratic policies which Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters uphold, the Labour Party remains detrimentally polarised. This flurry of disorganisation will only debilitate the Party in scrutinising David Cameron, and will wreck chances of future election success. The Labour Party must once again decide on what it stands for – crushing austerity, standing up for hard work and values of social justice, surely. It is time Labour MPs realised that only they can narrow the gap in opinion, and uphold the friendly and co-operative values the Party aims to work by. Labour must be united in policy, and must work together to create resolutions which please its activists and politicians.